U.S.A.! U.S.A.! In America, we play football with our hands and send our best lawyers to deal with FIFA.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch just finished her press conference announcing a 47-count indictment against 14 FIFA officials and sports marketers. Most of the charges are for racketeering and corruption.
Corruption in FIFA is an open secret. But there are two reasons why America is the only country that can really go after the international soccer cartel:
- We straight don’t give a fuck about soccer.
- This is how we roll, legally, post 9/11.
Let’s start with the second point. This century, America has been totally willing to flex its muscles to bring foreign nationals to justice in the United States. If we think you are a terrorist, we turn into Liam Neeson: We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.
But since the financial crisis, the Department of Justice has extended that logic to financial criminals. The DOJ has wide latitude to go after people and gather evidence from banks and other financial institutions. Don’t comply with the DOJ request, and your bank is going to have a hard time moving money around globally. The DOJ has a lot of experience prosecuting exactly this type of crime.
I’m not saying that American regulators care more about financial corruption than regulators in other nations. But we certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about the beautiful game. Most of the charges in today’s indictment center on corruption in CONCACAF. That’s the Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football. That’s our own soccer federation. We’re going after ourselves. These indictments will almost surely hurt our ability to compete on the world stage. And we give zero fucks.
Think about it this way: this story is going to be much bigger in Europe, Africa, and South America than it is here. Our news cycle is still stuck on reality TV incest. We’re going after the biggest sports organization in the world — FIFA actually is closer to a sovereign nation than a sports league — and most Americans are going to be like “meh.”
The officials were arrested in Switzerland last night. The Swiss are taking a side in this!
Getting people from Switzerland to the U.S. can be tricky. The Swiss won’t extradite people to the United States for tax evasion, and in general, the Swiss are loath to extradite people for purely financial crimes. But U.S. officials expect these FIFA people will be handed over. It’s almost like Swiss said, “We do not agree with your American obsession with financial crimes, and we usually stay out of matters of foreign intrigue... wait, did you say ‘FIFA’? Oh, we’ll help you get those bastards.”
FIFA president/warlord Sepp Blatter was not indicted. In fact, he’s expected to be reelected this weekend — though in fairness, “election” is not the word we usually use when a powerful dictator retains power. Sepp Blatter is played by Tim Roth in a biopic about the World Cup. Do you think Tim Roth goes down without an epic fight?
FIFA released a statement saying it “welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football.” Right. Sure.
Lynch 14 - FIFA Nil. But the U.S. will be playing the second half in a defensive shell. We’ll see how that works out for us.
[Also on Above the Law: Which World Cup Team Is Your Law School}